John was born 0n 8 May 1834 in St. Olave, York. He was recorded with his parents in the Censuses of 1841 and 1851, aged 7 and 17 respectively. On 10 Dec 1847, aged 13, he was indentured for 7 years to James Knowles of York, plumber, glazier and painter. He appears not to have completed the apprenticeship, as, in the 1851 Census, he was described as a “confectioner”, still living with his parents.
On his 24th birthday, 8 May 1858, he enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery. His trade was recorded as “groom”, and he joined as a “driver”, with army number 1682.
On 15 Dec 1858, after some 7 months, John was promoted to Bombardier. However, from 24-29 Apr 1860, he went absent. For this he was tried, and reduced to the ranks. Thereafter he would never again rise above the rank of “driver”. After a mere 3 weeks, from 22-28 May, he went absent again. It would be interesting to know why he was so determined to abscond. This time he was imprisoned from 29 May to 24 June.
John was transferred to India on 27 July 1860, where he served for 8 years and 5 months. Little is known of his posting in India. He transferred to F Bn, Royal Horse Artillery on 1 Dec 1861. As 145 Driver JOHN TATTERSFIELD, A/5 RHA, he was awarded the India Medal with North West Frontier clasp “for operations against the Mohmands” between 5.12.1863 and 2.1.1864. The record indicates that he served on the North West Frontier, but not at Umbeyla. He came under the Presidency of Bengal at the time, and was “re-engaged”, still as a driver, on 2 Nov 1867. For some reason his award was only made in 1884. At that time, being no longer in the Army, JOHN was referred to as “Mr. Tattersfield Jno.”
On 1 Dec 1868, seven years after his first transfer, he transferred to Depot RHA, and on 6 Jan 1869 his overseas service ended, presumably on his arrival back in England. Ill health seems to have caused his return. A medical report was prepared on 20 June 1869 at Woolwich. Even in those days the hand-writing of doctors was difficult to decipher, but the following account of his disabilities can be made out:- “Health quite broken down from Syphilis & liver Complaint. Is anaemic with constant pains of limbs and back, aggravated at night. He suffers much from Ague. Disability due partly to Syphilis, partly to Climate. For a long time at least will be but little able to contribute to his livelihood.” It was confirmed that his disability did not exist before his Enlistment, and that he could not be “repassed into the service.”
On 20 July 1869, John was discharged from the army, by the Regimental Board, “being found unfit for further service”. The Regimental Surgeon’s Report had stated he was suffering from “Secondary Syphilis and Chronic Hepatitis: partly syphilis partly climate are the causes; for a long time at least can do little.”His “Pension Admission” started on the same day.
We do not have a description of John when he joined the army. However, on his discharge from Woolwich, he was “aged 35 years 2 months, Height 5 feet 4 ½ inches, Complexion Fresh, Eyes Grey, Hair Brown, Trade Groom.” The record of marks on his face and body is tantalisingly unintelligible. Place of birth was St. Olave, York. His Regimental Number was 1682.
How did the army treat John on his discharge? He signed his discharge papers with a neat signature. They recorded that “…. his conduct has been good. He is in possession of two Good Conduct Badges. There are three entries against him in the Regimental Defaulter Book including two Courts Martial” – a factual, but hardly a glowing testimonial on his 10 ½ years service, including about 8 ½ years in the heat of India.
John was awarded a pension of 8 pence per day from 20 July 1869, the date of his discharge, until 9th May 1872. The discharge papers contained a note that he should apply for a deferred pension on 8 May 1884, his 50th birthday. Notes about his application in 1884 indicate that he did apply. His intended place of residence after discharge was 1 Albion Row, Tannery Moat,York. This was either where his parents then lived, or very close to it.
On 20th May 1884 his claim for a pension was considered by the Chelsea Board. He was recorded as D (Driver), No 1682, Rl Horse Art.. He had 8y 5m of service in india, 2 GC badges over 3 years, character was “Good”. He was “Entitled to Defd. Unfit Pension of 5d at 50. Formerly admd. to T.P. on 20 July 1869 at 8d 30 Mn (?). Was 50 on 8 May 1884. Groom.” His Intended Place of Residence was now given as 13 Hawthorne Place, Price St., Nunnery Lane, York. His physical description was repeated.
John never married. In 1871 he lived in York with his parents, and was a boiler maker’s labourer. Ten years later he lived with his widowed mother, as a labourer in iron works. He is not found in the 1891 Census, but in the 1901 Census John now lived with his younger brother, Richard, and his family. Richard was a Railway Engine Boiler Maker, and John a Railway Boiler Maker’s Labourer. Did they perhaps work together?
John died of apoplexy on 16 Aug 1905 in York, aged 71. He was buried in a public grave in York Cemetery.
Header Image: One constant throughout John Tattersfield's more than 8 years in service in India is that he was a "driver" in the Horse Artillery in Bengal. The photograph captures a view of the Bengal Horse Artillery, taken in 1860 (the drivers are mounted on the horses). On 19 February 1862, the Bengal Horse Artillery transferred to the Royal Artillery as its 2nd and 5th Horse Brigades. At that time, John would likely have served with A Battery, 5th Horse Brigade (A/5) - formerly 1st Troop, 2nd Brigade Bengal Horse Artillery - at Rawalpindi. Metropolitan Museum of Art / CC0